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Full text of "A sermon, preached on Sabbath, October 17, 1830, occasioned by the death of Miss Betsey Adams, daughter of Mr. Moses Adams, aged 25."

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^fletr 25, 







Psalm xxxix. 4. 

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it 
is ; that I may know how frail I am. 

Whether the Psalmist were induced from the 
purest motives to make the exclamation of the text, 
we leave to the decision of Him who is the proper 
and sole Judge of motives. He appears, however, 
for the moment to manifest a little impatience under 
his trials and afflictions. He seems to be anxious 
to know the precise time of his end, the measure 
of his days ; that is, precisely the time when life 
should end, and death terminate his present trials. 
This arose probably from his intense sufferings of 
mind in view of the cruel conduct of his son Absa- 
lom; more severe must have been his trial, and 
more intense his sufferings, than if God had, by a 
stroke of his providence, suddenly removed from 
his society and affections, a beloved and amiable 
child by death. 

There is sometimes a sorrow, a grief, arising to 
parents from the conduct of living children, far 
more deep and trying to the feeling and pious heart, 

than arises from following and resigning to the 
grave, in the midst of their days and usefulness, 
our most virtuous and beloved children. Whatever 
might have been David's motives and feelings when 
he commenced the exclamation, — with indeed some 
evident marks of agitation of mind, — Lord make 
me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, 
what it is : yet his feelings seemed already, before 
he closed, to have softened down in his desire to 
realize how frail he was. His sincerity and 
increased purity of motive seem confirmed from 
the strain of confidence and submission which he 
often manifests to the hand of God in his trials ; 
I was dumb, said he, I opened not my mouth; 
because thou didst it. 

What person is there, even among the hest of 
us, who, under severe trials and afflictions, does 
not sometimes discover a disposition towards im- 
patience and insubmission under the severe and 
trying allotments of a sovereign and holy Provi- 
dence ? But let us endeavor, by the help of God, 
to check every growing, every rising disposition of 
this nature ; and let us inquire, in the language of 
the text, with true sincerity, how we may know 
our end, and learn how frail we are, that we may 
meet the allotments of Divine Providence in respect 
to our own lives, and the lives of our dearest friends, 
with true submission. 

The circumstances which have occurred, and 

those which now exist, iif our parochial commu- 
nity, in relation to the lives and health of many of 
our dearest friends, seem to call on this occasion, 
for special notice and solemn attention. They 
seem to enjoin upon each one of us to adopt per- 
sonally the language of our text, Lord make me 
to know mine end, and the measure of m,y days, 
what it is ; that I may learn how frail / am ! 

Let us, then, sincerely and seriously inquire for 
a moment, How we may know, so as to realize 
in some measure, our end, and learn how frail we 

Death is so common an event, so common a sub- 
ject for consideration, that it would seem hardly 
necessary to be directed or enjoined to inquire how 
we may know our end, and learn our frailty. But 
there is a difference, an interesting difference, be- 
tween knowing an event, and realizing it in all its 
vast and weighty consequences. What is often 
thought of, is sometimes but little realized and 

Although but too infrequently resorted to by 
many, the holy Scriptures afford us instructions on 
the subject of knowing our end. They teiach us 
the frailty of these mortal bodies, and the nature 
of that end which terminates our earthly existence. 
They teach us that this life is not the end of our 
being, but only its commencement. They present 
life and immortality to the soul beyond the grave. 


They convey the most interesting truths, the richest 
blessings, and the hoHest instructions, of which 
mortal man is made the recipient. An impartial 
and devoted attention to their teachings will make 
us most thoroughly to know our end, and to learn 
how frail we are. What study, then, more de- 
mands attention than the study of the revealed Word 
and will of God ? This Word, this Book of God, 
if made our familiar companion through life, will 
be, through its animating promises and cheering 
hopes, to the soul in death, the richest boon of 
heaven. It reveals Him who is the resurrection 
and the life. Yet, few, it is feared, especially 
among the youthful portion of mankind, from this 
solemnly interesting and instructive volume, learn 
rightly to know their end, and how frail they are. 
If they wish to know and to realize their end, let 
them attentively study this Book of books. If they 
wish to meet their end in this world with calmness ; 
if they wish to meet death in the light and hopes of 
a never-ending existence, let them study this book. 
This is the way, the readiest and the surest way, 
to know their end, and to learn how frail they are. 
But, in addition to the instructions of God's 
Word, we are taught our end, and learn our frailty 
from observing the providences of God in respect 
to the end of others^ especially of our friends. If 
we had no Bible, no revelation from heaven in 
regard to our end, though indeed we might be in 

fearful darkness in respect to our future destiny, 
and even in respect to any future being, yet, daily 
facts and observation in relation to the frailty and 
mortality of our already departed friends, would 
teach us a lesson respecting our own frailty and 
earthly end. Hovs^ often are eyes called to tears, 
and hearts to mourn, because dear friends, on 
whom we fondly leaned, and from whom we con- 
fidently expected aid and comfort in life, have come 
to their earthly end ! Children are taught to know 
their end when death deprives them of their parents ! 
Parents too are taught to know their end, and how 
frail they are, when children are taken from them 
by death! Brothers and sisters are taught to 
know their end, when a brother or sister bids them 
a deathly farewell! Husbands and wives are 
taught to know their end, when death cuts the 
cords which bound them in an intimate and en- 
dearing union and society. 

We are thus taught to know our end, and how 
frail we are. But do we realize these truths ? 
This is quite another question. And it is quite as 
solemn and quite as important a question. What 
if we do know our end ? If it does not lead us to 
prepare for it, of what use, or of what value is our 
knowledge on this subject ? We may as well, yea, 
better, be ignorant of our duty and our destiny, 
than to know, and yet be wholly unprepared for 
them ! With what sincerity, then, with what 


seriousness, and with what earnestness, should we 
adopt this language'; Lord make me to know, to 
realize, and to be prepared for mine end. 

The subject, and the general remarks which have 
been made, are applicable to us all, and especially 
to all who have recently met with bereavements in 
the loss of friends. 

But I would apply the subject particularly to 
the case of the recent departure by death, of a 
youthful and much respected friend. Miss Betsey 
Adams ; as it is peculiarly trying to her parents, 
and as it is a striking and solemn admonition of 
Providence to the young in this place. 

It is an event in the records of death, which 
more rarely occurs than others. It is now more 
than ten years since we have been called to witness 
within our parochial limits, the departure by death 
of a young unmarried person, male or female, who 
had arrived to the age of twenty, or even sixteen ; 
that is, between the ages of fifteen and thirty ! It 
must peculiarly affect this class of persons. But 
before I speak to them of this solemn providence, 
I would respectfully notice the case of the bereaved 
parents and family. Those who are to feel this 
event and its after consequences most permanently, 
are the parents. None others, however near, how- 
ever dear, or however grieved, can continue to feel 
as they will continue to feel ; for none can place 
themselves in their situation and circumstances. 


They had made calculations for life ; as is often 
the case with short-sighted mortals ; but these 
calculations are all disappointed, all frustrated. 
Others have made other calculations which yet 
remain in anticipation. But, how soon these an- 
ticipations may be destroyed, is equally unknown 
both to us and them. 

There is, my respected friends, in your situation 
and condition of life, an important change ! Things 
are now to wear almost a new face ! But, let the 
thought sustain you, that, the same God, who has 
heretofore blessed and prospered you, is able still 
to bless and prosper you. He has not left you, in 
this heavy bereavement, without sources of consola- 
tion ; and he is able yet to open to you other 

You have the consolation that the child you have 
resigned to the arms of death, was an affectionate, 
a devoted, an obedient child through life. You 
have the further and still greater consolation, that, 
in addition to the command to honor her father and 
her mother, you have reason to believe she remem- 
bered also her Creator in the days of her youth. 
This fact, though it rendered her life doubly desir- 
able, — and if you look no further than the grave, 
might prove a thorn in her death 5 — yet, looking 
beyond the limits of this life, it will prove indeed 
a rose, whose fragrance will serve to animate and 
enliven your mourning and drooping spirits, till you 


come yourselves to the house appointed for all the 

If our children be affectionate and kind, virtuous 
and pious, though it renders them lovely in life, and 
their society much to be desired, yet, this it is too, 
that renders them lovely in death, and inspires us 
with a resignation to the will and mandate of heaven. 

Your departed daughter was possessed of those 
traits of character which would naturally lead you 
to regret, on your otvn account, her death, and to 
lament the loss of her society 5 but, from the seri- 
ous turn of her mind for years, and her uniform 
conduct in life, as well as from her conversation 
on the bed of death, you have reason to believe that 
she was not only a desirable companion for the 
virtuous on earth ; but a suitable subject through 
the mercy of God in Christ, for the more virtuous 
society of just men and spirits made perfect in 

Had you no other proof, my dear friends, than 
an apparent resignation on the bed of death, you 
might well have your doubts. This alone, in 
common cases, affords a very uncertain hope, and 
is a very doubtful critepon of a preparation for 

Your case, my respected friends, I know, after 
all the sources of support and consolation Provi- 
dence is affording you, is peculiarly dark and try- 
ing, and calls for the kind attentions, the tender sym- 


pathies of friends and neighbors. Yet it some- 
times assuages oiu* grief to know that others have 
passed through similar trials, and know how to 
feel for us. There are many among us, who have 
felt, and many also who now feel, the afflictions of 
life, the loss of friends, and disappointed hopes. 
Submit, my friends, in this trying event to the will 
of heaven in humble confidence, that. He who 
notices the falling of a sparrow, and knows the 
number of the hairs of our heads, can so order and 
overrule your trials, that when a few more years, 
or perhaps days have rolled over your heads, you 
shall be released from trials, and find that they 
have all been working together for your eternal 

The sister and brother will suffer a word of ex- 
hortation. You are, my friends, young ; as it were, 
just entered on the career of life. Prospects be- 
fore you may be pleasing and flattering. But, 
little, my friends, little do you know what is before 
yoa. One cloud has already arisen and obscured 
a bright ray of the sun of your prosperity ! How 
soon another may arise, is as uncertain as the clouds 
and winds of heaven. Although your affliction is 
severe, and wounding to the sensibilities of the 
feeling heart 5 yet your situation is so different 
from your honored parents, that, all-soothing time, 
and the objects which divide your affections con- 
stantly around you, will greatly soften your grief 


and alleviate your trial, while theirs, from the very 
situation in which they are left,* will be for a long 
time at least, more and more realized. Let me 
then remind you, of what, I trust, you feel, and 
will be prompt to execute, so far as it is possible in 
the nature of things, — an increased regard and at- 
tention to the lonely condition of those whom every 
affectionate and dutiful child delights to honor and 
succor. Let them feel, that, though they have 
lost much in one child, they have gained something 
in another. And, my friends, it is sometimes ne- 
cessary that young people especially should be 
reminded of their otvn frailty and mortality : that 
they should be led to adopt from the heart, the 
language of our text ; Lord, make me to know 
mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is ; 
that I may learn how frail I am. 

You have many and strong attachments to life ; 
but, in the course of Divine Providence, they may 
all be broken ; they may be suddenly broken. 
You have one attachment which is every day 
strengthening. The little interesting one which 
God has lent you, — you know not for how long, — 
is daily entwining itself around your hearts, and 
insiduously stealing away your affections, perhaps, 
from Him who is the sole object of our supreme 
affection. Never forget the Lender ; never forget, 
that, this little one, in common with us all, is mor- 

* Entirely alone in the family. 


tal. Should you, in a delusive hour, forget it, 
God may sadly remind you of it. May your pre- 
sent affliction be so received and so improved, that 
other afflictions may never be necessary to remind 
you of duty and to teach you how frail you are. 

I would say a word before I close, to the youth, 
to the associates and particular companions of the 
deceased. Her death, and the situation as to 
health of others around us who are in early life, 
should be viewed, by their youthful companions, 
as a warning voice of Providence to teach them to 
know their end, and to induce them to learn how 
frail they are. Let the gay and thoughtless youth 
take example of those of their companions who 
have in life manifested a serious regard for serious 
truths, and have met sickness and death with calm- 
ness and composure of mind. It is a solemn, an 
appalling scene to witness a youth brought down 
from the high and dazzling hopes of life to the very 
gates of death, unconcerned about his future des- 
tiny, unprepared for the awful change that awaits 
him ! Let me say to the youth present, that, there 
is no name, no honor, which they can acquire 
among the good of every age, so worthy, as the 
name of a thoughtful, virtuous, religiously serious 
youth. There is no blessing which a youth can 
confer upon society ; no blessing which a child 
can confer upon parents, for their unwearied affec- 
tion and care, so great, as a clear title to this name. 


And, let me say further to you, my young friends, 
that, there is no other name, nor character, that 
will recommend you to the favor of heaven, and 
entitle you to the joys of the future w^orld. Say, 
then, each of you, with deep interest and solicitude, 
Lord, make me to know mine end, and the mea- 
sure of my days, what it is 5 that I may learn how 
frail I am. 

Of one important truth, I wish to remind pa- 
rents, which, if long forgotten, will be of little use 
to know. This truth is, the duty of instructing 
children both by precept and by example, while 
we have them with us. Our children may be sud- 
denly taken from us ; — this some of us know by 
sad experience; — but if they are not, we must 
soon leave them ! While one generation cometh 
forward, another passeth away. This is the course 
of nature. What we do for our children, we must 
do quickly. 

Let this solemn subject, and the recent repeated 
deaths in our social circle, as well as the wasting 
diseases which are preying upon the vitals of num- 
bers of our families and youthful friends, awaken 
us all to the consideration of our latter end, and 
teach us to realize how frail we are. When we 
and our families and friends are in health, and 
worldly prosperity, we are prone to think our- 
selves happy. But, we are truly "happy, just in 
proportion as we despair of lasting happiness from 


this changing, sinful, dying world, and just in pro- 
portion as we truly hope for it from the mercy of 
God through him who is the resurrection and the 

In every trial, we should look beyond natural 
causes, and view and acknowledge the hand of 
God in all our afflictions ^ and then, confidence in 
his wisdom, in his justice, in his truth, and in his 
goodness ; and consciousness that He only rebukes 
us for our good, will induce us to be silent and 
submissive under every stroke of his afflictive 
Providence, because He hath done it. The afflic- 
tions of the Christian, though sanctified, he cannot 
hut feel. But as a stranger and a pilgrim on earth, 
he will patiently bear them in the hope that they 
will be the means of preparing him for that home 
where afflictions are unknown and unneeded, and 
where the weary are at rest. Thus, by his exam- 
ple, others are instructed how to live, how to suf- 
fer affliction, and how to die, which is the great 
object of living. Let me die the death of the 
righteous : And that my last end may be like his. 
Lord, make me to know mine end, the measure of 
my days, what it is, and learn how frail I am. 

u Blacon SrsEsr 

^^OSION. MASSACHUȣIt> 021fli